Associate in HVAC-R: Degree Overview

Oct 13, 2019

Individuals interested in sales or repair careers in the heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration (HVAC-R) industry might pursue an associate's degree in this field. See what these programs entail and what graduates do when they finish.

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Essential Information

Students in associate's degree programs in HVAC-R learn to install, overhaul and maintain residential, commercial and industrial heating and cooling systems. Some topics of discussion might include blueprint reading, systems design and the use of testing equipment. Students may be required to complete lab practicums before graduating.

A high school diploma or GED is generally required for admission. Some schools may also require applicants to have completed certificate or diploma programs in this field.

Associate Degree in HVAC-R

In an HVAC-R program, students may learn through classroom study and hands-on lab work. Topics covered may include:

  • Air conditioning systems
  • Refrigeration fundamentals
  • Commercial and industrial systems
  • Electricity basics
  • Duct design
  • Heat pumps

Popular Career Options

Graduates may specialize in a particular area, such as air conditioning or refrigeration, or they may work in all HVAC-R areas. They may be employed by heating and air conditioning contractors or repair shops. Possible job titles include:

  • HVAC-R sales representative
  • Refrigeration repair technician
  • Hydronics technician
  • Air conditioning service technician
  • Heat pump specialist
  • Electrical controls technician

Career Outlook and Salary Info

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects a 13% employment increase for HVAC-R installers and mechanics between 2018 and 2028. In 20158 the Bureau reported that the average annual salary for HVAC-R workers was $50,160. The highest-paying states for HVAC-R workers at that time included Alaska, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Connecticut and Massachusetts.

Continuing Education

According to the BLS, some state and local governments require HVAC-R technicians to be licensed ( In some cases, this may entail completing a state-approved degree or certificate program. Other states may require applicants to complete an apprenticeship program or obtain a significant amount of work experience under a licensed technician. Most states also require aspiring HVAC-R technicians to pass a state-issued exam.

Additionally, anyone working with refrigerants must pass a written certification exam to ensure that they can safely handle these materials, according to the BLS. These exams are usually administered by organizations approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

HVAC-R bachelor's degree programs are available to students interested in learning how to start their own businesses or take on managerial roles. Students who would like to acquire additional technical skills can find programs with coursework in control systems design and systems.

To summarize, HVAC-R programs provide the necessary technical training for careers in the field. After graduating, students must usually seek licensure before they can start working, and some choose to gain more advanced education in relevant areas, such as management and control systems design.

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